Monday, November 28, 2011

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah - Burro Wash - Hiking

Five months ago I was sitting at the top of Halls Creek Overlook in Capitol Reef National Park, drenched in sweat and hiding from the scorching sun in what little shade I could find.  I was anxiously waiting for Hunter and Col to finish the grueling climb out of the canyon so we could enjoy some clean water, air conditioning, and possibly a margarita! (There are no margaritas to be found near Capitol Reef).  The backpacking trip to Halls Creek Narrows was incredible, but possibly the hottest three days I have ever endured.

This past week I woke up in Capitol Reef National Park with frost in my tent, anxiously waiting for the low winter sun to rise above the ridge and provide some warmth.

Sunrise in Fruita - Capitol Reef

Grant and I headed down to Capitol Reef on Tuesday night and decided to camp in the main campground in Fruita because the place was nearly deserted.  Car camping is fantastic when there are no other people around because it means heavy (real) food and beer are possible.  The main campground, located in the historic town of Fruita, is situated amongst the apple trees planted by Mormon pioneers and the towering red rock cliffs of Capitol Reef.  It's a spectacular place that is best enjoyed without the swarms of people that fill the campground during the summer.

The view near Fruita - Capitol Reef National Park

We left camp and headed down the Bullfrog-Notom Road that parallels the waterpocket fold of Capitol Reef for 8 miles to reach our main goal for the trip - Burro Wash.  The views of the distant,  snow-covered Henry Mountains were spectacular against the red rock desert of Capitol Reef.

The Henry Mountains

Burro Wash crosses the Bullfrog-Notom Road as a broad, sandy, dry wash (except during floods) and it doesn't look particularly exciting.  A couple of miles from the road, however, the wash cuts through the waterpocket fold in a series of narrow slots canyons providing one of the best adventures in the park.  Burro Wash is a technical route requiring full canyoneering gear if one travels from the waterpocket fold eastward down the entire length of the canyon.  Hiking up the canyon from Bullfrog-Notom road to the large, impassable pouroff is non-technical route.  An extra pair of shoes would have been handy to hike through some of the pools that were present.

Exploring a large pothole

 Grant climbing over a narrows section

Grant trying to avoid wet feet

The canyon really narrowed up in a few spots a few miles from the trailhead.  Some chokestones, cold water pools, and some very narrow slots made for an exciting and challenging hike.

 Getting narrow

Climbing towards the light

 Grant plotting his fancy maneuver over a pool

Fancy maneuver fail

The narrows opened up about 4 miles from the trailhead and we enjoyed the warm sunshine for a bit before heading back down the canyon.  Some large boulders near the trailhead made for some fun photos before we headed back to the main section of the park.

Near the trailhead for Burro Wash

Grant is King of Burro Wash

We took some time to explore a few of the more popular sights in Capitol Reef, including the Fremont River Waterfall, the Grand Wash, The Fremont petroglyph panels, and the scenic drive.  I've lost count of how many times I have visited this national park, but every trip has offered a new adventure along with the peaceful solitude that is more difficult to find in some of Utah's other parks.

Fremont River Waterfall

Grand Wash

Fremont Petroglyph Panel

Along the Scenic Drive

Scenic Drive

This past week was Thanksgiving and it has become a tradition for me to spend the holiday in beautiful  places with awesome people since I don't get to spend the holiday at home with my family.  I'm thankful that I live in such an incredibly beautiful place but even more thankful for the people who have spent the holiday with me over the past several years.  Robert, Brandon, Sheldon, Tim plus the entire winter population of Denali, Keith, Melissa, Ryan .. and now Grant.  Thank you!!